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Asian Qualifiers - Group H: Korea Republic confirm top spot, defeat dents Lebanon's hopes


Goyang: Lebanon will have to wait to see if they will advance to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 and directly to the AFC Asian Cup China 2023 Finals after a 2-1 defeat to Group H winners Korea Republic on Sunday left their fate firmly in the balance.

Needing a win at Goyang Stadium to guarantee progression, Lebanon opened the scoring against the run of play in the 12th minute through Soony Saad before Song Min-kyu levelled for the hosts six minutes after the interval.

Son Heung-min’s penalty put Korea in front midway through the second half and, with no further goals, the result means Lebanon will have to wait until the remaining teams in the Asian Qualifiers close out their campaigns on Tuesday to find out if they advance to the next phase as one of the five best runners-up.

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Despite having top spot all but confirmed, Korea’s head coach Paulo Bento insisted earlier in the week that the Taeguk Warriors would be going all out for the win and they came out of the blocks firing, with Song volleying Son’s corner narrowly wide in the 11th minute.

But Lebanon then stunned the hosts a minute later when Mohamad Kdouh robbed Kim Moon-hwan of possession on the left before Mohamad Haider took over, sending the ball into the box to Saad, who held off Kim Young-gwon, turned and tucked into the bottom left corner from eight yards.

Son came within inches of equalising on 25 minutes when a lovely Song flick sent him through on goal but, after dinking over the outrushing goalkeeper Mehdi Khalil, defender Maher Sabra acrobatically cleared off the line as Lebanon held on.

Korea continued to push forward and could have levelled three minutes before the interval but Hwang Ui-jo failed to connect to Son’s dangerous in-swinging free-kick from the left with the goal at his mercy.

A similar story continued early in the second half with Jung Woo-young playing a lovely through ball to Hwang, who cut inside and curled towards the bottom corner only to be denied by an outstretched Khalil.

But, after Park Ji-su had seen his effort cleared off the line by Kdouh from the ensuing corner, Korea’s next corner would finally prove fruitful as Song’s header from Son’s delivery from the right deflected off Sabra and into the back of the net.

Bento’s side were then awarded a penalty in the 65th minute when Nam cut inside Joan Oumari, who’s flailing arm caught the ball and, after the referee had pointed to the spot, Son dispatched from 12 yards before dedicating his goal to former Tottenham Hotspur teammate Christian Eriksen.

The onus was now on the visitors to push forward but, despite having more of the ball in the final 20 minutes, they were unable to trouble the Korean backline as the game ended 2-1.

Lebanon finish Group H with 10 points and will have to wait till Tuesday, when Groups A to G play their final games, to know whether they will advance to the final round of the Asian Qualifiers for the FIFA World Cup Qatar 2022 as one of the best five runners-up.

Photos: Korea Football Association

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